Our ideal tuna melt is a study in balance: the perfect ratio of tuna salad to cheese (Too Much Tuna is a sin), just enough mix-ins to add some crunch and flavor, and bread that’s well browned but falls just short of stiff toast.
As the story goes, the tuna melt was invented in the 1960s when a lunch counter cook accidentally spilled tuna on a grilled cheese sandwich. Whether or not the legend is true, we apply a couple of grilled cheese tricks to our tuna melt: spreading the outside of the bread with mayonnaise to yield a golden, crispy crust, and covering the skillet with a lid to quickly melt the cheese before the tuna salad becomes too hot.
Canned tuna can be one of the most sustainable seafoods you can buy, or one of the least. For the most eco-friendly tuna, look for albacore, skipjack, or yellowfin varieties, and search for the terms “pole-caught,” “troll-caught,” or “pole and line caught’ on the can.
For a fully loaded tuna melt, feel free to pile any number of additions, such as lettuce, sliced tomato, avocado, or pickles.
Recipe: Cast Iron Tuna Melt
One 5-ounce can solid, oil- or water-packed tuna, drained
2 tablespoons mayonnaise, plus more for the toasting the bread
1 teaspoon whole-grain mustard
½ celery stalk, diced (about ¼ cup)
1 tablespoon finely chopped pickles or cornichons
2 teaspoons finely chopped red onion
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (omit if using oil-packed tuna)
1½ teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely chopped herbs (such as parsley, dill and/or tarragon)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 slices cheddar or American cheese
2 slices bread (we like white, sourdough, or English muffin bread)
The Field Method for Cast Iron Care
Place the tuna in a medium bowl and break it apart with a fork. Add the mayonnaise, mustard, celery, pickles, red onion, olive oil (if using), lemon juice and herbs. Mix well, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use, up to 2 days in advance.
Place the tuna salad on top of 1 slice of bread and spread into an even layer. Top with the cheese. Top the sandwich with the remaining slice of bread and smear the top of the bread with mayonnaise (or softened butter, if you prefer).
Preheat a No.6 Field Skillet (with a lid) over medium-low heat. Place the sandwich, mayo-side down, in the skillet and cook, uncovered, until the bottom is golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Smear the top of the sandwich with mayonnaise (or butter), flip the sandwich over and cover the skillet. Continue cooking until the bottom of the sandwich is golden brown and the cheese is melted, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a place and serve.